Employers need to maintain their workforce to prepare for the post-Covid era, says a senior executive of a staffing body. When factories and businesses re-start post lifting of the lockdown, companies will need access to a skilled pipeline of workers.

Lohit Bhatia, President, Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), told BusinessLine , “The cost to replace, rebuild and reskill workers will be more expensive for employers, after the Covid-19 slowdown. It is imperative that companies continue with their current staff to help them achieve results later and assist in the rebuild period.”

“Each employee has an attached cost of mobilisation, induction, training and getting them upto speed with performance. Letting go of them just before the rebuild period will mean companies will have to reinvent the entire cycle of hiring, skilling and economic activity,” Bhatia said.

He said most market leaders will refrain from this as the “restart and rebuild period can further get elongated impacting possible revenues that can be earned then”.

Covid-19 has impacted each and every segment of the economy and employability, said Bhatia adding the pandemic has created doubts in the minds of employees and employers alike, about the duration and extent of the lockdown.

“One needs to look at data from countries like China where it was almost fully resolved (but has restarted with vigour) and South Korea, where the graph is declining and the number of recoveries exceed the number of new cases each day. Similarly, countries which were epicentre earlier, like Italy and Spain, now report almost half of the daily cases as compared to the past few weeks. This goes to show India will exit this crises in a few weeks,” he added.

It is at that time “once the health emergency is over” when economies get back on their feet that they will have to rely on their workers.

Bhatia said most of the companies in India have a consolidated situation on overall employment, whether its core (permanent employment) or temp employment or staffing employment. “Many corporates and global multinationals have paid salaries in the month of March, much ahead of the scheduled timeline, and supported employees in this time of crises. Similarly, many corporates and industry leaders have assured staff (both permanent and temporary) that they are going to ensure stability and continuity of wages,” he added.

The official said: “corporates across India are using their heart with head while taking decisions. Most are looking at the human aspect as much as the financial and P&L aspect. But these measures need to be implemented across sectors.”

The recent MHA directive, restarting companies in a calibrated way post April 20, was termed a good step by the official, as it is a transition for full opening up. “Industries that are allowed to function at this time, like food services, groceries, FMCG, e-commerce and delivery companies, can redeploy their workers to avail of the new demand that pours in,” he said.

ISF representation

Bhatia, who is also president of Quess Corp, a technology and business services provider, said employment Acts in India prohibit massive layoffs. “Under the Disaster Management Act the Union of India has made it non-compliant to lay off workers during a lockdown and ensure continuity of wages, and more importantly, continuity of social security and insurance. The IFS has proactively shared some suggestions with the government to assist employers during the rebuild period,” he added.

In its representation to the government, IFS has suggested certain steps that are non cash/non subsidy based, which will assist employers during the rebuild period to reduce their employment cost. “This can be done without taking any assistance from the central or state government and treasury,” said Bhatia.

He added if these suggestions are implemented, it will go a long way in assisting employers tide over the current period as well as the financial year, and ensure companies continue with wages as well as their employees.